Bloom bags cash, UCLA tech to treat epilepsy via the microbiome

Bloom Science has raised seed money and licensed technology to treat CNS diseases via the gut-brain axis. Building on research into the ketogenic diet, Bloom is initially focusing on developing bacterial treatments for epilepsy.

The ketogenic diet has been used on and off since the 1920s to treat seizures. Starting with the observation that fasting reduced seizures, researchers developed the high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. The idea was to simulate the effect of fasting by forcing the body to rely on fat for fuel.

Doctors today use the diet to treat children with refractory epilepsy, but the link between it and the decrease in seizures remains unclear. Now, a team at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has added to evidence implicating the microbiome.

The research linked the ketogenic diet to increased prevalence of certain bacteria in mouse models. These bacteria are thought to produce metabolites that fuel gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), an inhibitory neurotransmitter that offsets the glutamate-triggered aberrant neuronal excitability that is linked to epileptic seizures.

Bloom has licensed the technology from UCLA with a view to developing formulations of bacteria that modulate GABA, thereby conferring the neuroprotective effects of the ketogenic diet in a pill. The pill regimen would be easier to comply with than the diet and potentially have fewer side effects.

To support its efforts, Bloom has raised a seed round of undisclosed size and established an R&D plan that takes it up to an IND filing. In parallel, Bloom will work to develop a medical food that will give it a fast track to market and safety data, enabling it to jump straight into a clinical proof-of-concept trial in patients with epilepsy.

The strategy is the work of Bloom CEO Tony Colasin and CSO Christopher Reyes, Ph.D., who founded the company with UCLA’s Elaine Hsiao, Ph.D. Hsiao is the senior author on a Cell paper about the mouse model research, which she sees as a launchpad for treating a range of CNS diseases. 

“This discovery has the potential to impact the many conditions that are associated with alterations in GABA and shown to be modified by the ketogenic diet, such as epilepsy, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, anxiety and schizophrenia,” Hsiao said in a statement.